David Edelstein

David Edelstein is a film critic for New York magazine and for NPR's Fresh Air, and an occasional commentator on film for CBS Sunday Morning. He has also written film criticism for the Village Voice, The New York Post, and Rolling Stone, and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times' Arts & Leisure section.

A member of the National Society of Film Critics, he is the author of the play Blaming Mom, and the co-author of Shooting to Kill (with producer Christine Vachon).

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Movie Reviews
11:42 am
Fri September 20, 2013

Gandolfini Is So Vivid In 'Enough Said,' You Forget He's Gone

James Gandolfini plays a divorced TV archivist who falls in love with a divorced masseuse, played by Julia-Louis Dreyfus, in Nicole Holofcener'€™s Enough Said.
Lacey Terrell Fox Searchlight

Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said is her most conventional comedy since her 1996 debut, Walking and Talking. I don't love it as much as her scattershot ensemble movies Friends With Money and Please Give, but it has enough weird dissonances and hilarious little curlicues to remind you her voice is like no other. I love it enough.

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Movie Reviews
11:27 am
Wed August 28, 2013

Reaching Across What's Broken, 'Short Term' Fix Or No

In Short Term 12 — named for the youth facility where it's primarily set — John Gallagher Jr. and Brie Larson play young counselors not too far removed from their own adolescent struggles.
Cinedigm

Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 2:02 pm

It's easy to make fun of a certain kind of therapeutic language — the kind you hear all through the movie Short Term 12.

That title comes from the name of a group home for abused and/or unstable teens. Early on, a young counselor named Grace (Brie Larson) tells one smart-mouthed kid that "your attitude is not helping either one of us" — which would tend to make her a repressive drag in a typical Hollywood teen picture.

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Movie Reviews
10:31 am
Fri August 23, 2013

Boozy Bromance 'World's End' Rises Above Its Lowbrow Tactics

Nick Frost (from left), Eddie Marsan, Simon Pegg, Paddy Considine and Martin Freeman play a group of friends who reunite for a pub crawl challenge in The World's End.
Laurie Sparham Focus Features

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 1:30 pm

The World's End is a world-shaking, genre-bending, sci-fi comedy, and a splendid capper to what British writer-director Edgar Wright and actor-writer Simon Pegg call their "Cornetto trilogy," for an ice cream they eat on their side of the Atlantic. This one's arguably the best of the three, but who wants to argue over gorgeous satires like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End? It's like ice cream flavors: Have them all.

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Movie Reviews
10:50 am
Wed August 7, 2013

A Future Where Class Warfare Is Much More Than A Metaphor

Jody Foster plays her political opposite as the brutal secretary of defense in Elysium.
Kimberley French Sony Pictures

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 1:19 pm

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Movie Reviews
11:34 am
Fri August 2, 2013

A Good Girl And A Lost Boy, Looking For A Way Forward

Shailene Woodley, who played George Clooney's rebellious daughter in The Descendants, turns in a splendidly calibrated performance as a soft-spoken good girl who falls hard for a high school party animal (Miles Teller) in The Spectacular Now.
Wilford Harewood

The teen romance The Spectacular Now is by turns goofy, exhilarating, and unreasonably sad — just like being a teenager.

It centers on a fast-talking, hard-drinking high school party animal named Sutter Keely, who boasts of living for today and in the now — instead of, say, studying — and how he takes up with a girl named Aimee, who's the opposite of a party animal.

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Movie Reviews
9:57 am
Fri July 26, 2013

'Blue' Rhapsodies: Woody Allen, In Need Of New Tricks

Ginger's (Sally Hawkins) best moments happen while in the company of a persistent suitor named Al (Louis C.K.).
Merrick Morton Sony Classics

Originally published on Fri July 26, 2013 11:40 am

Another year, another Woody Allen picture, and few agree on whether that's a good thing. For some, he hasn't made an interesting film since Husbands and Wives, maybe even Hannah and Her Sisters. Others think more recent morality plays like Match Point and comic parables like Midnight in Paris prove the old dog still hunts.

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Arts & Life
10:38 am
Fri July 19, 2013

Two Documentaries Examine Violence, Human And Animal

The new documentary Blackfish looks at the practice of keeping orca whales in captivity.
EPK

Originally published on Fri July 19, 2013 11:49 am

Two documentaries, Blackfish and The Act of Killing, are making waves around the world. The first riles you up; the second blows your mind.

"Blackfish" is the Inuits' name for the orca, a creature that they say is worthy of veneration but that you don't want to mess with — the chief example in Gabriela Cowperthwaite's Blackfish being Tilikum, responsible for two, possibly three human deaths.

The movie is Tilikum's story — along with the story of other orcas kept in captivity in theme parks like SeaWorld.

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Movie Reviews
11:57 am
Fri July 12, 2013

Introducing Oscar Grant, The Man Behind The Headlines

Based on a true story, Fruitvale Station won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Michael B. Jordan stars as Oscar Grant and Ariana Neal stars as his young daughter, Tatiana.
Cait Adkins The Weinstein Co.

Originally published on Fri July 12, 2013 12:44 pm

The actor Michael B. Jordan gives a major performance in Ryan Coogler's debut film, Fruitvale Station. He plays 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who was shot in a run-in with cops at an Oakland, Calif., train stop in the early hours of 2009. The film opens with cellphone footage of the actual event, so you know what's coming. But the Oscar you meet on the last day of 2008 remains a man, not a martyr.

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Movie Reviews
11:42 am
Wed July 3, 2013

'The Lone Ranger': Summer Fun With Manifest Destiny

Armie Hammer stars as the Lone Ranger in a new Disney adaptation.
Film Frame Disney

We're at the point when Johnny Depp's dumbest whims can lead to movies costing $200 million. I imagine Depp lying in a hammock on his private island and saying, "I've always wanted to play Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows!" and it's done. Then he says, "I've always wanted to do The Lone Ranger — but as Tonto!" and it, too, gets the green light.

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Movie Reviews
1:01 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Two Master Moviemakers, Two Singularly Fine Films

Saoirse Ronan plays Eleanor, an ancient (and uncharacteristically ethical) vampire in Neil Jordan's Byzantium.
IFC Films

The decade of the 1980s — when major corporations made their presence more felt in Hollywood — was for all kinds of reasons a low point in American moviegoing. But two beacons abroad, Pedro Almodovar and Neil Jordan, reminded us with movies like Law of Desire, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Mona Lisa how films could be personal and still reach a large (or large-ish) audience.

Thirty years later, we have Almodovar's I'm So Excited and Jordan's Byzantium — and these directors are still shining a light.

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Movie Reviews
11:03 am
Fri June 14, 2013

Whedon's Touch Finds A Match With 'Much Ado'

Fran Kranz stars as Claudio in Joss Whedon's new take on Shakespeare's classic comedy Much Ado About Nothing.
Elsa Guillet-Chapuis Roadside Attractions

Originally published on Fri June 14, 2013 11:31 am

One word sums up my reaction to Joss Whedon's film of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing: Huzzah!

Here is the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer — and the director of The Avengers — working with American TV actors who have little or no training in verse-speaking. Who could have predicted such a team would produce the best of all filmed Shakespeare comedies?

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Movie Reviews
11:29 am
Fri May 31, 2013

Rediscover Your Inner Anarchist In The Anti-Corporate 'East'

In The East, Ellen Page (left) and Alexander Skarsgard play members of an anarchist eco-terrorist collective.
Fox Searchlight

The second collaboration between writer-director Zal Batmanglij and actress and co-writer Brit Marling is called The East, which happens to be the name of the movie's anti-corporate terrorist cult. Marling plays Sarah, an agent who infiltrates the group. She doesn't work for the FBI. Her employer is a private security and intelligence firm run by the sleek, profit-oriented Sharon, played by Patricia Clarkson. Its clients are Big Pharma, Big Oil, or Big Rich Any Corporation that, according to the group The East, poisons the world and everyone in it.

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Movie Reviews
10:31 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Two New Stories With A New-Wave Vibe

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprise their roles as Jesse and Celine in Before Midnight, the latest in Richard Linklater's series about a couple's relationship over the years.
Despina Spyrou Sony Pictures Classics

Lately I've been re-watching vintage Truffaut movies, and I've been struck by the resurgent influence on American independent films of the French New Wave of the late '50s and '60s.

The Truffaut borrowings are fairly explicit in Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha, while Richard Linklater's Before Midnight takes its cues from Eric Rohmer's gentle but expansive talkfests. That's not a criticism: With mainstream movies seeming ever more machine-tooled nowadays, the impulse to reach back to an age of free-form filmmaking feels especially liberating.

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Movie Reviews
10:32 am
Thu May 16, 2013

'Into Darkness,' Boldly And With A Few Twists

Zoe Saldana is Uhura and Zachary Quinto is Spock in the new J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek: Into Darkness, the 12th installment in the franchise.
Zade Rosenthal Paramount Pictures

Originally published on Thu May 16, 2013 12:04 pm

Before I tell you about J.J. Abrams' second Star Trek film, with its youngish new Starship Enterprise crew, let me say that just because I've seen every episode of the original Star Trek and of The Next Generation, and most of the spinoff series, and every movie, I'm not a Trekkie — meaning someone who goes to conventions or speaks Klingon or greets people with a Vulcan salute.

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Movie Reviews
9:41 am
Fri May 3, 2013

'Iron Man 3': Tony Stark As Homebrew Hero

In Iron Man 3, Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), and Gwyneth Paltrow reprises hers as his girlfriend, Pepper Potts.
Paramout Pictures

Originally published on Fri May 3, 2013 2:01 pm

The third time might be the charm for some things, but the number three after a movie title is typically shorthand for a deal with the devil.

The studio thinks there's more money to be squeezed from a particular property, and voila: Spider-Man 3, Superman III, The Godfather — God help us — Part III. OK, The Godfather's a special case. Most other threes, though, are what happens when a too-thin plot meets a too-fat budget.

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Movie Reviews
11:42 am
Wed May 1, 2013

Two Indie Directors Go Confidently Mainstream

In Ramin Bahrani's At Any Price, Zac Efron stars as a teen rebelling against his family and dreaming of becoming a professional race car driver. Sound like a generic summer pic? Critic David Edelstein says the film has "a hell of a sting in its tail."
Hooman Bahrani Sony Pictures Classics

Studios are putting most of their eggs in $100 million baskets these days, even as American independent filmmakers go hungry from lack of mainstream attention. But two of my favorite American indie writer-directors, Jeff Nichols and Ramin Bahrani, have new films with bigger stars than they've had before — films they hope will break through to wider audiences. The results, at least artistically, are impressive.

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Movie Reviews
10:03 am
Mon April 22, 2013

Tom Cruise's Latest Headed For 'Oblivion'

Originally published on Wed April 24, 2013 9:05 am

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

In December, Tom Cruise starred as the title character in the film "Jack Reacher." In "Oblivion," which opened on Friday, he plays another Jack, one of few humans left on an Earth devastated by an alien invasion. "Oblivion" is based on a graphic novel co-written by Joseph Kosinski, who went on to direct the film, and it costars Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo. Film critic David Edelstein has this review.

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Movie Reviews
9:48 am
Fri April 12, 2013

Terrence Malick And Every Man's Journey 'To The Wonder'

Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck play two lovers in Terence Malick's latest film, To The Wonder.
Mary Cybulski Courtesy Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Fri April 12, 2013 11:17 am

The voiceovers from Terrence Malick's To the Wonder, which has a lot of them, are intoned on the soundtrack while the characters stare into sunrises or sunsets — whenever the light is right, what cinematographers call, "the magic hour." This film and Malick's last, The Tree of Life, suggest that he's evolved into a blend of director and Christian minister: These are psalms writ on film.

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Movie Reviews
9:57 am
Tue April 9, 2013

Going 'Mental' And Enjoying The Ride

Shaz (Toni Collette), a hotheaded stranger new to the Australian town of Dolphin Heads, becomes the unlikely answer to a local politician's problems when she steps in to nanny his children.
Dada Films

Originally published on Tue April 9, 2013 12:39 pm

Mental is madder than madcap. I heard one critic sniff, "It's kind of broad" — and, Your Honor, the defense agrees! But if broad means "unsubtle," it doesn't have to mean "unreal." Mental makes most other movies seem boringly, misleadingly sane.

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Movie Reviews
11:59 am
Fri March 22, 2013

With Vengeance And Violence, 'Olympus Has Fallen' Flat

Aaron Eckhart and Ashley Judd as the president and first lady in Olympus Has Fallen.
Phil Caruso Millennium Films

What surprises me about the ongoing discussion of violence in cinema and whether it influences violence in the real world is how people fail to engage with the male fantasy behind these films. There's a template for them, a theme; it hinges on violation and vengeance. A seminal action picture of the last 50 years is 1988's Die Hard, in which a lone male cop operates behind the scenes after an ingeniously orchestrated foreign attack on American soil. He's symbolically emasculated — he has no gun or even shoes, his wife is now going by her maiden name.

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Movie Reviews
9:52 am
Fri March 15, 2013

Three New Films Examine What It Means When Girls Act Out

Ginger & Rosa (starring Alice Englert and Elle Fanning) was directed by Sally Potter, who is perhaps best known for her 1992 film Orlando.
Sally Potter

Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 3:37 pm

In the '60s, some fervent rock groupies formed a band called the GTOs — short for "Girls Together Outrageously" — and while it didn't last, the name captures the impulse behind stories in which women chafe against the male-centric society that pulls their strings. This week you can see a girls-together-outrageously triple bill: Spring Breakers, Ginger & Rosa and Beyond the Hills.

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Movies
10:04 am
Fri March 8, 2013

'Oz': Neither Great Nor Powerful

James Franco stars as the Wizard of Oz before the Wizard meets Dorothy in Oz the Great and Powerful.
Walt Disney Pictures

Originally published on Fri March 8, 2013 11:34 am

Oz the Great and Powerful. Say that name aloud and you will smile, I guarantee you: It will conjure up so many images, characters, actors, songs. Then hold that smile as long as you can, because you won't be doing much smiling at the movie called Oz the Great and Powerful, the so-called "prequel" to The Wizard of Oz from Disney Studios.

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Movie Reviews
12:26 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

A Disappointing Thriller Channels Hitchcock And Bram 'Stoker'

Nicole Kidman (left) and Mia Wasikowska star as Evelyn and India Stoker in Park Chan-wook's new thriller.
Macall Polay Fox Searchlight Pictures

Stoker has a ripely decadent, creepy-crawly feel that would have gotten under my skin if the tone weren't so arch and the people so ghoulishly remote. It's like a bad Strindberg play with added splatter. But director Park Chan-wook certainly works to make you uncomfortable. Take the early shot in which the teenage girl protagonist, India Stoker, played by Mia Wasikowska, sits in a meadow and muses in voiceover on the subject of free will versus destiny. She says, "Just as a flower doesn't choose its color, so we don't choose what we are going to be" — while draining a blister.

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Movie Reviews
9:53 am
Fri February 8, 2013

'Caesar' Comes Alive In An Italian Prison

Brutus (Salvatore Striano) fixes a wild stare at the witnesses and conspirators after Julius Caesar's murder, in a scene from Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's Caesar Must Die.
Adopt Films

Originally published on Fri February 8, 2013 11:09 am

In the early '80s, Italy's Taviani brothers, Paolo and Vittorio, made one of the true modern masterpieces, The Night of the Shooting Stars. Set in the last days of World War II, when Germans laid mines all over Tuscan villages and Fascists loyal to Mussolini killed their own countrymen, it was a very cruel film.

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Movie Reviews
8:24 am
Fri February 1, 2013

'Gatekeepers' Let Us Inside Israeli Security

The documentary The Gatekeepers examines Israeli security policy in interviews with six former heads of the secretive Shin Bet agency.
Sony Pictures Classics

The Oscar-nominated documentary The Gatekeepers centers on Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but from an unusual vantage — not the Palestinians or Israelis on the ground, but six men at the pinnacle of the country's security apparatus: the former heads of the security agency Shin Bet.

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Movies
10:32 am
Fri January 18, 2013

'Mama': A Good Old-Fashioned Horror Movie

Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and her sister, Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse), are near-feral orphans in the horror thriller Mama.
Universal Pictures

Originally published on Tue January 22, 2013 11:29 am

I was weaned on horror movies and love them inordinately, but the genre has gone to the dogs — and to the muscle-bound werewolves, hormonal vampires, flesh-eating zombies, machete-wielding psychos, etc. It's also depressing how most modern horror pictures have unhappy nihilist endings in which everyone dies and the demons pop back up, unvanquished — partly because studios think happy endings are too soft, but mostly because they need their monsters for so-called franchises.

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Movie Reviews
10:28 am
Fri November 23, 2012

A Boy, A Boat, A Tiger: Reflecting On 'Life Of Pi'

Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) begins a journey of personal growth and spiritual discovery after being lost at sea.
20th Century Fox

Originally published on Fri November 23, 2012 11:54 am

Director Ang Lee has a surprising affinity for the Indian hero of Life of Pi — that's his name, Pi, and he's seen at several ages but principally as a 17-year-old boy adrift on a lifeboat in the South Pacific. He's the lone survivor of a shipwreck that killed the crew, his family and a variety of zoo animals his father was transporting to North America for sale.

Actually, Pi is the lone human survivor. He shares his boat and its dwindling food supplies with a man-eating Bengal tiger.

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Movie Reviews
10:16 am
Fri November 16, 2012

In 'Silver Linings Playbook,' Lawrence Is Golden

Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker also help round out a team of actors who score a touchdown with the critics.
The Weinstein Co.

Originally published on Fri November 16, 2012 1:14 pm

The best thing about David O. Russell is that he cultivates his disequilibrium. In Silver Linings Playbook, his hero is disturbed and his heroine possibly more so, and his other characters have a grip on reality that is only marginally more secure. Russell might have made them seem the dreaded "q" word — quirky — and OK, he does, a bit, at the end, which broadly conforms to the rom-com template. But until then, Bradley Cooper's Pat Solatano is someone you'd be less likely to dream about than get a restraining order against.

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Movie Reviews
9:53 am
Fri November 9, 2012

Historical, Fictional Icons Take To The Big Screen

Daniel Craig stars as the quintessential MI6 agent, James Bond, in Skyfall. The Bond franchise is 50 years old this year.
Francois Duhamel Sony Pictures

Originally published on Fri November 9, 2012 11:52 am

Two icons, Abraham Lincoln and James Bond, make triumphant appearances this week in movies with more in common than you'd expect. True, Lincoln is a titan of history, liberator of slaves, and as such an adversary of Western colonialism, while 007 is an outlandish stereotype embodying white male Western authoritarian power. But the makers of these films do a sterling job of testing their respective subjects in front of our eyes — before pronouncing them fit to carry on in our collective imagination.

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Movie Reviews
12:43 pm
Fri October 26, 2012

'Cloud Atlas': You're Better Off Reading The Book

Zachry and Meronym are only two of the combined 12 characters Tom Hanks and Halle Berry play in Cloud Atlas. It is a challenge that bests both actors, according to David Edelstein.
Jay Maidment Warner Bros.

First I need to talk about the book, because it's not as if Cloud Atlas the movie came from nowhere — and if you think it's only the movie you want to know about, I think you need a context for what's onscreen.

Author David Mitchell writes exquisite pastiches, and Cloud Atlas is in the form of six distinct and enthralling novellas set in six different eras with six different literary styles.

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